I love driving. Like many that visit this website, there’s nothing quite like getting out and just driving long distance. Sure it’s a little hard to do in New Zealand; it seems we can’t go too far without slowing down for yet another town. And yet drive, we do.
I recently purchased a new (used) bike to replace my aging but loved Aprilia meant that I had to go to Auckland to pick it up. Just had to. Well, at least that’s what I told my wife. You can’t trust those transporter guys I told her (not when a road trip beckons – I didn’t tell her that bit).
There was one small hiccup in my plans. My daughter refuses to let me out of the driveway for a ride, without her riding pillion. I have no idea where she gets these speed thrills from. So on a Friday evening in early May, we flew to Auckland from Wellington and crashed at a friend’s place. The next morning dark clouds threatened overhead, but we had a BMW KT1200GT to pick up, rain, hail or shine.
I did have a friend check the bike out before purchasing it, but it’s always a relief when you turn up to pick up said bike/car/truck and it’s actually as you thought it would be. With just 17,000 kms on the clock it is one tidy 2006 beemer. So many BMWs I looked at had done well over 100,000 kms in the first 5 or 6 years. Time to digress; once I went to look at a car for sale on TradeMe, absolutely stunning in metallic blue (at least on TradeMe in the photos it was). I drove for 2 hours with a friend, money in pocket ready to buy this amazing car. Once we got there, well, shock set in. The car was not much like the photos. I asked the seller why it looked ‘somewhat different’ than the photos on TradeMe. His response? “Oh yeah well those photos were from 12 years ago when it was just painted.” Needless to say I crossed that car off the list real quick.
Anyway back to the BMW. There it was, 130Hp and 280Kg of Grand Tourer, just waiting to hit the road. Heated seats, heated grips and an electrically adjustable windscreen weren’t just there for looks – at least for the heated seats and grips, which were very welcome on the Desert Road.
I jumped on the beemer and rode solo to my friend’s place in West Auckland, then we loaded up the panniers and hit SH1 south. The bike simply purred – that 4-cylinder 1200 cc engine is so incredibly smooth, you really need that gear position indicator otherwise you have no idea what gear you’re in. The kilometres clicked over on Auckland’s southern motorway.
Being a bike I wasn’t familiar with, you would expect that I wouldn’t push it the first ride out and run it almost out of gas. But then perhaps you don’t know me. We rode through Cambridge. The low fuel light wasn’t on yet but it was close. Tirau came and went, the fuel light came on – but no Mobil or Caltex there, so had to keep going. Putaruru came and went. We were busy chatting on our Bluetooth intercoms to each other, and so the low fuel problem wasn’t on my mind. The light started yelling at me 10 kms out of Tokoroa and we literally spluttered into the Tokoroa Mobil station. $33 lighter in my wallet, we had a full tank again. At least I now know how low it can go – that’s my reasoning, for the times when I don’t run out of gas.
Since my daughter had not ridden from Auckland to Wellington before, we decided to call in to Taupo to break the trip up. Even with the comfy BMW seat I was ready to call it a day at 5 pm, and sometimes when you are on a road trip, you just want to stretch it out that bit more.
The next day looked grey, but not wet. A quick photo stop at the top of Huka Falls Road, and then off we went. Most of the traffic on SH1 was well behaved and a strong police presence on the road held speeds down, although that didn’t stop people doing other stupid things.
One thing I love about riding motorbikes is the camaraderie. Most motorcyclists will wave as they pass; they just know how good it is to get out on a bike on the open road. There is simply nothing like it, except maybe a convertible. But that just gives you a taste for motorcycling.
We cruised south some more, hitting Bulls for fuel and then Shannon for a last-stop food fix at Viv’s Café (we got sucked in by the signs, and didn’t regret it). The last two hours flew by, the usual side winds along the Foxton Straights giving the BMW a few pushes here and there, but it stayed rock steady and just flew southwards. The performance from that engine is incredible, down to 30 kmh in 6th gear through Levin, and then accelerating up to open road speeds effortlessly and quietly. I thought fuel economy of about 50 mpg was okay for weight of the bike, loaded up with two people and all our gear.
So, we made it home safely, much to my wife’s joy. 650km later and memories that will last for a long time. Well, at least until the next road trip.
Epilogue: That night, my 14 year-old daughter was online doing all the practice driving test questions, and working out just how many weeks to go until she can go for her Learner’s License. She has the bug. My wife will never forgive me.